VIDEO: Drive through Carr Fire near Redding reveals apocalyptic scenes
In Redding, officials stuck a hopeful tone for the first time in days.
"We're feeling a lot more optimistic today as we're starting to gain some ground rather than being in a defensive mode on this fire all the time," said Bret Gouvea, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's incident commander on the blaze around Redding, a city about 230 miles (370 kilometers) north of San Francisco.
Gouvea spoke at a news conference with fire and law enforcement officials. Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said authorities found a sixth victim of the blaze at a home that was consumed by flames, though he declined to say where. The victim's identity was not released.
The sheriff's department is also investigating seven missing persons reports, Bosenko said. Redding police have an additional 11 reports of missing people, though many of them may simply not have checked in with friends or family, said Redding police Sgt. Todd Cogle.
The so-called Carr Fire that affected Redding - a city of about 92,000 people - was ignited by a vehicle problem on Monday about 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of the city. On Thursday, it swept through the historic Gold Rush town of Shasta and nearby Keswick fueled by gusty winds and dry vegetation. It then jumped the Sacramento River and took out subdivisions on the western edge of Redding.
After days of fortifying the areas around Redding, fire crews were increasingly confident that the city would escape further damage. The fire had not grown inside the city limits since Saturday, Gouvea said.
VIDEO: Apocalyptic Carr Fire burns through Shasta County
Some of the 38,000 people forced to evacuate said they were frustrated because they didn't know whether their homes were standing or were destroyed. Authorities had not reopened any evacuated neighborhoods where fires raged due to safety and ongoing investigations and urged people to be patient, saying they would soon let residents back.
Fed up, on Sunday morning Tim Bollman hiked 4 miles (6 kilometers) on trails up steep terrain to check on the Redding home he built for his wife and two sons 13 years ago. He found rubble.
"There's not even anything to pick up," he said. "It's completely gone."
He took hundreds of photos, recorded video and texted his wife.
"It's the craziest frickin' thing you have ever seen," he said, his eyes filled with tears. But then he composed himself.
"It is what it is," he sighed, and then hiked off.
Keswick, a mountain town of about 450 people, was reduced to an ashy moonscape of blackened trees and smoldering rubble. The San Bernardino County Fire Department was called in to tamp down smoking piles of debris that were scattered around the town amid downed electricity lines.
"What we're seeing here is an incomplete burn situation," Capt. Doug Miles said as his crew used picks, shovels and rakes to open up piles that just days ago were family homes. The flames laid waste to about 25 blocks, and the "mop up" work was likely to take days. He said his crew would be looking for anything salvageable, but there was little left standing.
The fatalities included two firefighters and a woman and her two great-grandchildren.
"My babies are dead," Sherry Bledsoe said through tears after she and family members met Saturday with sheriff's deputies.
RELATED: Remembering the great grandmother, 2 children who died in Carr Fire
Her two children, 5-year-old James Roberts and 4-year-old Emily Roberts, were stranded with their great-grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, 70, when flames swept through the family's rural property Thursday on the outskirts of Redding.
The sixth victim, who was not identified, did not evacuate despite receiving an evacuation warning, Bosenko said.
It is the largest fire burning in California, threatening more than 5,000 structures.
"We're here till the end, and we will get to an end, and we will bring some peace to this chaos," he said.
The firefighters killed in the blaze included Don Ray Smith, 81, of Pollock Pines, a bulldozer operator who was helping clear vegetation in the path of the wildfire. Redding Fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke was also killed, but details of his death were not released.
- Ashby Road & Lake Blvd
- Beltline at Oasis
- Benton & Quartz Hill Road
- Buckhorn Summit at SR 299 (Eastbound) Buenaventura at Keswick
- Buenventura & Hwy 299
- Caterpillar at Market
- Clear Creek Road & Cloverdale Lane Hwy 299 at Buckhorn Summit
- Elk Dr at Carnelian
- Eureka Way at Court Street
- Gas Point at Clear Creek Rd
- Gas Point Road and Foster Road
- Happy Valley Trail and Hawthorn Road
- Hwy 299 at Buckhorn Summit
- Iron Mountain Rd at SR 299
- Keswick Dam Boulevard at Keswick Dam Facility
- Keswick Dam Road & Quartz Hill Road
- Lake at Keswick
- Lake at Oasis
- Lake at Quartz Hill
- Lower Springs Rd at Swasey Drive
- Market at Lake
- North Market South of Lake
- North Point at Redwood
- Oasis Road & Lake Blvd
- Placer at Buenaventura
- Placer at Mule Town
- Plantina Road and Rainbow Lake Road Plantina Road and Placer Road Planting Road & Gas Point Road Railroad at Buenaventura
- Ridge Lane at SR 299
- Riviera at Howard
- SR 299 from Buenaventura Boulevard to Buckhorn Summit
- SR-273 at Bonnyville
- SR-273 at Branstetter
- SR-273 at Breslauer
- SR-273 at Clear Creek
- SR-273 at Kenyon
- SR-273 at Westside Rd
- Sway Drive & Placer Road
- Texas Springs at Placer
- Texas Springs Road & Honeybee Road
- Crosspointe Community Church - 2960 Hartnell Avenue, Redding, CA, 96002
- Simpson University - 2211 College View Dr, Redding, CA, 96003
- Trinity High School - 321 Victory Lane, Weaverville, CA, 96093
- Foothill High School - 11555 Old Oregon Trail, Redding, CA, 96003
Shasta Community College has reached its maximum capacity.
- Large Animal - Redding Rodeo Grounds 715 Auditorium Drive Redding, Ca.
- Small Animal - Haven Humane 9417 East Side Drive Redding, Ca.
Click here for the latest information from Cal Fire on the incident, including updated evacuation information.
Get the latest on the Carr Fire here and the latest on wildfires across California here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
RELATED WILDFIRE STORIES & VIDEOS:
- MAPS: Wildfires burning across California
- PHOTOS: Massive Carr Fire tears through Shasta County
- VIDEO: Drive through Carr Fire near Redding reveals apocalyptic scenes
- VIDEO: Firefighters get brief rest in neighbor's yard during 'apocalyptic' Carr Fire in Shasta County
- VIDEO: New look at destruction from Carr Fire in Redding
- Most destructive California wildfires in history
- How to prepare for a wildfire evacuation
- PG&E may cut electricity during high fire danger, are you prepared?
- The difference between containing and controlling a wildfire
- These aircraft are on the front lines of the fight against California wildfires
- Wildfire masks: How to best protect yourself from smoke during a fire
- How wildfire smoke can impact your health
- How to sign up for emergency alerts where you live
- Surviving a long-term power outage
- Safety tips to remember when returning home after wildfire
- DIY: How to make a pet carrier in case of emergency
- How to prepare your pets in case of disaster